After writing for a decade on my political philosophy, it’s perfectly natural for many people to have an opinion about me. Some of my progressive friends make it clear that they view me with some suspicion, due to my tendency to support “the establishment” and my interest in economics – the dismal science of the elite. Some of my conservative friends see my interest in social justice and desire to make constant improvement as dangerous tinkering with the social order and a desire for perfectibility, an intellectual pursuit always fraught with danger.
Both are wrong in a way. Call it “enlightened self interest” if you want, but I see my view as nothing more than the only practical one given my one and only goal. Like Beethoven contemplating the Ninth Symphony, I only want to be happy. And my politics flows naturally from that.
A focus on being happy often leads just about anyone away from worrying a lot about material possessions. The happiest moments in any life are rarely defined by more than a few drinks or a good meal, but instead rely on the company of the moment. Dinnertime with my kids or even a few like-minded people who chat about the same music I like or a sense of history is worth far more than any one material thing I can think about.
Nearly anyone who has given this any thought has come to a similar conclusion.
Of course, there are some people who are truly happy constantly working every angle and competing to be at the top. Money and material goods are a way of keeping score for them. If they are really happy doing that, well, then by all means they can go do that. The problem comes when they define every aspect of the world and force me to be just like them simply to have that good meal in good company. I don’t want to live in their world any more than I have to.
Likewise, time spent deeply worried about my personal safety are moments lost to unhappiness. I don’t want people to be so desperately poor that crime seems like a viable option to them. A world full of justice and opportunity is clearly going to be a world with a lot more happiness to go around, giving me more space to be happy.
Any couple in love is only going to inspire me to be happy, regardless of whether they look like me or either of them seem like a good partner for me. Love is only a good thing, in any form. I’m all for it.
Grumpy people who are constantly pissed off about something or the other without any good reason are a problem for me, especially if they make a point of being highly disrespectful and picking a fight for no apparently reason. I’d rather they didn’t have whatever pain or problems they dwell on, but at least I wish they’d keep their grumpiness to themselves and maybe yell at the propaganda they are watching on TV instead of me.
I wish that my nation didn’t bomb and shoot so many people around the world because I can imagine that they get very angry about this. If every time I sent my kids off to school I’d have to wonder if I’d ever see them again I would be pretty righteously fired up, too, and it makes no sense for us to get people that angry. It would be much better to try to work things out and I wish we would try a lot harder.
I can understand how people in tight-knit cultures become upset when values come in that they are forced to tune out. Hollywood produces a lot of movies full of violence and sex that I’d simply rather not see, and I don’t. But if I came form a culture not used to that kind of pluralism I can see how it would be hard – and in fact I have cousins who are part of a fundamentalist group which does just that. They seem happy.
Whether it’s a Christian group here in the US or a Moslem culture far away that is used to living close together I can see how globalism, probably seem as Americanism to them, is a threat. I don’t like big hunks of it either. So I try to be patient with them.
And if it’s a small town that is used to being very close slowly dying off as the best and brightest young people can only find opportunity elsewhere I have sympathy for them. When those left behind develop a high tendency to be hooked on opiates or meth I can imagine how painful that is. It’s hard to be happy contemplating that pain and I would like to help if I can.
I simply want to be happy. I want time to read and think and write and chat the night away laughing and exploring ideas and experiences I never could imagine on my own. It can also mean a night being lazy in front of the TV, curled up with my pets. I don’t want to have to scratch and claw for everything.
I want to see those who have fallen or simply gotten old taken care of because one day I might fall and one day I will indeed one day be old. I don’t want to have to disconnect from the world because everything on the news is horrifying. Simple justice for everyone and increasing the peace gives me space to move around in the world, see new things, and enjoy the Hell out of them.
It’s a matter of goals to me, and a matter of thinking through what it takes to get there. My happiness does depend on the world around me because I am happier when the world inspires me. So it logically follows that the only politics which suits my needs is happiness for everyone. That means taking care of each other, supporting justice, creating opportunity, and mostly just being as decent as possible.
My politics? I think it’s immensely practical to support justice and stability and peace for the simple reason that I want to be happy. There’s little more to it than that.